Since the first time we went to visit the inner city ministry that’s five hours from our current home, God has been working on me. I believe with my whole heart that my future lies in that place, even though it is not what I would have planned for myself. With each new life situation that hurts me, I feel like I “get it” a little bit more. When I say “get it,” I mean that I understand God’s heart a little more. I feel heartache and pain, which gives me insight into how He feels, and how very much He loves each one of His hurting children. It also helps me understand what other people are feeling–how hurt and helpless they can feel in certain situations. I don’t want them to be alone in their hurt. This is sort of an odd segue into the overarching theme of this post, but it shows you the direction my heart is going.
Let’s back up to my childhood. Probably in fourth grade is when I started to recognize and care about issues of justice. There were some novels that I read which really helped shape my thinking during those formative years. Number the Stars introduced me to the Jewish Holocaust. The Giver raised my awareness of how a society should function. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry made me aware of racial prejudice against African Americans. Ever since then I’ve been fascinated by social justice issues. It’s something that I’ve studied–trying to understand how prejudice happens, why, and how it can be dealt with. Up until quite recently, I had no thought of pursuing this issue or trying to deal with it in real life.
Speaking of those who experience injustice, I believe that God calls Christians to suffer with their brothers and sisters when they are suffering. I know that there are Christian brothers and sisters suffering in the inner city. I know that there are children in need of some love and stability, which we could provide as foster parents.
Don’t get me wrong–I am certainly no superhero. I recognize how vulnerable I am and that I am the same as everyone else. Actually, I think that’s a great boon. Because God allowed my false image of self to be shattered, and He carefully rebuilt it Himself, I can better appreciate the people around me and their struggles. I know what it’s like to feel unsafe in your own home as a child. I know what it’s like to lose a loved one to drugs. I know what it’s like to be in a relationship that is destroying you. I know what it’s like when somebody hurts your children. I know what it’s like to feel alone and abandoned. I know what it’s like to be poor. I can now thank God for all of the circumstances He’s allowed me to go through because they have produced a richness in my soul and life experience which I would not have otherwise had. These are all assets for loving and serving others.
I’m not looking to “help” people in the inner city. I’m looking to live side-by-side with them, in reciprocal relationships. If I try to impose my help on someone else and make it a one-way proposition, I am depriving them of their dignity. A person is not a charity project. They are a living, breathing representation of God’s hope and love. They are one of God’s children and inherently valuable. Maybe they don’t recognize their importance, but it’s my calling to remind them through word and deed.
So…I want to live in a neighborhood where I stick out as the “odd white lady.” If racial reconciliation is to happen (which I believe is part of our Christian duty), then white people have to be willing to enter into community with black/latino/asian/Native American people. Prejudices are changed as we get to know one another in real life and participate in shared experiences. I could live this way for a lifetime and only scratch the surface of the hurt and misunderstanding that need addressing.
That brings me to my next thought. I believe that it is absolutely imperative that today’s young generation embark on the quest for racial reconciliation. Visionary adult leaders need to seek ways to not only educate young people, but give them real-life opportunities to engage with those of another race in meaningful interaction.
Far from being perfect, I believe that God wants to use me in this way because of my imperfections. I can relate to people. I seek to understand their thoughts and feelings, while sharing my own struggles and imperfections. People want to know that you care about them, more than that you have a solution. Just knowing that somebody’s got your back can make the difference between weathering life’s storms or collapsing in defeat.
This post has been all over the place, but I hope that you understand what I’m trying to say. Let’s hope I can figure out a way to say this a little more coherently in the future. 😉
P.S. I forgot an important component to this whole issue–the good that God has planned for us in the midst of this real-life reconciliation model of living. I’ve talked about how I want to invest in the lives of others, but one of the best parts is that my life will be enriched, as well. I know that there will be neighbors and friends who will love me and my family, who will support us, and who will teach us new truths. This won’t be a one-way street, but one that is full of learning and enrichment on both sides of the road.